Until recently, there wasn’t much of a difference between a civil union and a marriage. Couples that were living together without being married were often considered married anyway after a certain amount of time. Civil unions were created in many areas within the last 20 years to give domestic protections to non-traditional couples. This is most often same-sex couples, but can include other domestic partnerships. Is there a difference between a civil union and a marriage? Let’s take a look.
Civil Unions Are a Second Tier Recognition
The primary reason why civil unions are frowned upon is that they don’t provide domestic partnerships with the same level of benefits, including tax benefits, that a marriage provides. In many ways a civil union is simply a document that recognizes that there is a domestic partnership in place where resources are shared. In the eyes of benefit providers and tax regulators, a civil union means absolutely nothing.
People with a civil union are seen the same as a cohabitation relationship with no rights and privileges beyond recognition of a relationship.
This means that civil unions are essentially a second tier recognition when compared to marriage. Married couples receive tax benefits, benefit extensions, and have specific rights should something happen to their partners. Civil unions don’t have these whatsoever.
This Makes Civil Unions Both Separate and Unequal
Having a written commitment to a significant other isn’t a bad thing to have. In that aspect, a civil union is a nice thing to have around because it can formalize a relationship for a couple. When that’s all a civil union can provide, however, and in several areas that really is all a civil union can do, then it’s more of a novelty than anything else. Of course members of a civil union don’t have the responsibilities that a married couple would have, but that’s not a good thing for most couples.
Let’s say that the area where a civil union is recognized allows for health care decisions to be made by the domestic partner in an emergency. Finances could also be involved in this decision. If a couple moves outside of that area, there is no legal obligation for their new community to recognize the civil union. This would mean the couple would need to have power of attorney documents drawn up, special DNR documents created, and then carry these papers like you would a passport.
Is a Civil Union Really That Bad?
For some couples, a civil union is the perfect answer to meet their domestic needs. No one is saying that it doesn’t work in specific circumstances. In the comparison with marriage, however, a civil union always falls short because there are benefits and responsibilities that are extended to a married spouse that just aren’t extended to a civil union partner. If a couple doesn’t want those benefits and responsibilities extended, then it is the right choice. For many, however marriage is the wanted choice and why so many are pushing so hard to get it.